CONSERVATION BIOLOGY RESEARCH

Overview

The Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands are one of the most diverse regions of the world and supports over 500 species of birds, over 170 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 120 species of mammals. The habitat requirements and population dynamics of songbirds, carnivores, and other nongame species are poorly understood. Researchers partner with private landowners and other resource agencies to better understand their life history.

Bird Conservation

Trans-Pecos Texas supports a diverse collection of bird species, due in large part to the variety of habitats found in the region including desert grasslands, shrublands, montane forests and woodlands, and riparian corridors. Additionally, it’s location along a major flyway between North American nesting sites and wintering sites in Central and South America make the Trans-Pecos an important stopover for many migrating species. Over 500 different avian species have been recorded in the Trans-Pecos, and nearly half of those are species that have nested in this area.

Birds play important roles in the ecosystems of Trans-Pecos Texas as pollinators, seed dispersers, and as a prey source for other birds and mammals. Increased urbanization, habitat fragmentation, and climate change have all been linked to declining bird diversity and changes in migratory habits across the globe. Now, more than ever, understanding the community of birds in west Texas is important, as they can be excellent indicators of the overall health of the environment.

Landscape Ecology

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TERLINGUA CREEK CAT’S-EYE
Kelley's RBB project

Small Mammals

Small mammals play important roles in desert ecosystems. By consuming seeds, they influence the plant community, and through digging and the creation of burrows they help to aerate the soil making it more hospitable to plants and better able to absorb moisture. Small mammals are also a significant source of prey for many larger mammals and birds of prey. Small mammals occupy relatively small home ranges, and they are dependent upon on the appropriate resources being present in that area for their survival. This means that their presence or absence in an area can tell us a lot about the condition of that ecosystem. Additionally, because small mammals have a relatively short lifespan and communities can change rapidly, they serve as good indicator species for changes occurring in the environment.